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Status quo in downtown Santa Barbara appears to be no longer an option

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The message is getting louder as the calendar dates disappear when it comes to an action plan for downtown Santa Barbara. The current configuration of some creative dining and entertainment options in one area and a stagnant look in other areas has been economically frustrating for businesses owners, the Santa Barbara City Council and with multiple interested parties.

Efforts to create a master plan are going forward but in the meantime, the leader of the charge to do something now is Mayor Randy Rowse. In addition to making his point at the council meetings, he is getting his message to local media outlets for a further reach to the public

He said this year is marking the fifth year of the current look of the downtown business corridor and he worries, without something fresh happening soon, the summer season will not have the vital financial benefits the area has enjoyed in the past. For certain, both of the biggest city parades will not be taking place on State Street. The summer Solstice Parade is on Garden Street and the Old Spanish Days Parade is on Cabrillo Boulevard.

The mayor said the economic impacts of a slower paced downtown are showing up in the budget. The downtown parking system is in the red, and he has favored clearing out barricades and letting cars come back into the streets that are now closed.  For special events, Rowse said barricades and designated areas are the way to go for just those events. That would allow for parades, the Farmers' Market (on Tuesday and soon on Carrillo Street), and other outside activities on the street.

Keeping the status quo, he said over and over, is not an option. Opening it is something that can be done immediately.

At this week's city council meeting, many voices were heard, including the mayor and council about a Community Benefit Improvement District (CBID).  If approved, businesses in a specific area will pay into a tax base for improvements in that area including, but not limited to, street cleaning, security, beautification and event planning.

The CEO of Montecito Bank & Trust Janet Garufis favored the CBID but also said, "I was recently walking up State Street and had to ask myself I’m not sure why our visitors want to walk up and down State Street because it really is it’s not a compelling place to be anymore."   

She is on a CBID committee with Developer Peter Lewis who said, "this effort was born out in necessity. The status quo is no longer acceptable, an option or strategy."

AttorneyTrevor Large works in downtown and said, "for too long, there’s been a lot of finger pointing both at property owners, at the city, or the city council saying who’s to blame for this who’s gonna do something about this?"

Rowse said the solutions are long over due and the impacts are painful. "The fact that there are some self-inflicted wounds, the continued closures of State Street and now the deficit we face seriously in our parking systems from whatever reason, the fact that we voted away 2/3 of the proposed by staff budget to clean State Street," he said.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County
Santa Barbara

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3-12. To learn more about John, click here.


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